No more VoIP for SMS two-factor auth?

New NIST standards disallow the use of VoIP-based phone numbers for SMS two-factor authentication. Argh, if I can’t use my Google Voice number, how can I receive SMS codes overseas without paying exorbitant telco roaming charges? I don’t consider a mobile-OS 2FA app to be a reliable substitute.

Looking for a Database Console


I’m looking for any existing tools to manage a set of several MySQL or Postgres databases. Something like the Amazon RDS console, but with the ability to dump and restore data to plain SQL files instead of just filesystem snapshots.

Terraform Tips

Terraform is a wonderful declarative system for setting up cloud resources – sort of a vendor-neutral AWS CloudFormation with nicer syntax.

See for a gold mine of Terraform information.

I’m writing this because I just experienced the “joy” of losing my Terraform state file for the first time, which means I need to go and delete 53 AWS resources by hand!

Database Horror Stories

If databases are an essential part of your work, and you’d like some nightmare stories to keep you awake at night, check out The author devastates the consistency, availability, and partition tolerance of supposedly “robust” modern databases.

Warcraft: The Movie Reactions

This film is just what it needed to be: first, a fantastic piece of WoW-gamer fan service, and second, an adequate if uneven opening to what will hopefully become a solid fantasy film franchise.

durotan2I expect Warcraft to receive poor reviews from mainstream film critics who aren’t familiar with the game world. It doesn’t function well as a stand-alone story compared to past fantasy epics. But, I think the critics will be surprised by its commercial success. I expect the follow-up sequels to feature more solid direction now that the franchise has a grounding in Hollywood – just as the Lord of the Rings films got stronger as the trilogy developed.

ILM did an amazing job on the CGI characters – most of whom acted more believably than the humans! I loved the subtle facial expressions when the orcs teased each other.

The violence seemed overdone, but I imagine having so many bloody war scenes was a requirement to ensure success in non-English markets in case the subtler drama failed to connect.

Some of the human roles felt mis-cast and performed (or were directed?) half-heartedly. For example, I felt he quiet scene between Medivh and Garona where they discuss lost families fell flat.

Seeing the WoW world in high-resolution film was amazing. I particularly loved seeing Karazhan, Dalaran, and what looked like part of the Nexus, after spending so much time in those places in game. Stormwind was perfect down to the classic circular candelabras. Playing mostly on the Horde side myself, I can’t wait to see more of the orc, Tauren, and Blood Elf worlds – though the Blood Elves looked terribly silly in this film, and I hope they get re-designed for any sequels.

Lastly, I very much enjoyed the subtler WoW references, like Khadgar explaining how Polymorph works “for 60 seconds, and only on the weak-minded,” and Lothar’s response that his last visit to Karazhan was about six years ago – yeah, me too buddy!

Susskind’s Lectures on Physics

I highly recommend the extensive series of physics lectures by Prof. Leonard Susskind now available on YouTube! (complete playlist link)

Susskind does a great job explaining advanced physics without the overwhelming technical jargon that makes Wikipedia pages and papers on these topics incomprehensible to me.

With some background in undergraduate physics I was able to start with the “New Revolutions in Particle Physics” sequence and, for the first time, begin to understand what is happening in quantum field theory.

Anyone with a computer graphics background will find Lectures 3 and 4 of the Standard Model series familiar, in which Susskind derives some properties and relationships of rotation matrices. This leads neatly into group theory and some understanding of what the legendary “U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3)” actually means.